While the mainframe lives on, 70 percent of customers say cost reduction ranks among their top priorities for Big Iron systems over the next year.

Among the other top four priorities facing mainframe customers:

    • Application availability, 52 percent
    • Application modernization, 48 percent
    • Data privacy, 47 percent

The data points, based on a survey of 1,200 BMC Software customers, parallels BMC's strategy in the mainframe market.

The software company claims IBM's mainframe customers are concerned about software spend and monthly license charges (MLC) from Big Blue. In response, BMC has launched a range of products that allow customers to analyze and optimize their mainframe workloads.

Also of note: 91 percent of survey participants said the mainframe remains a viable platform over the long term. Those customers, many of whom are from the financial services vertical, point to availability (53%), security (51%), centralized data serving (47%) and transaction throughput (42%) as the top benefits of mainframe computing.

The survey results arrive amid an inflection point for IBM and its mainframe customers. In recent months, CEO Ginni Rometty had been criticized for focusing on shareholder profit promises made by her predecessor, Sam Palmisano. More recently, Rometty has scrapped the 2015 profit promise of $20 per share, and promised to make IBM a more customer focused organization.

BMC, meanwhile, is hoping to help those IBM customers reduce their mainframe costs at a time when IBM needs to further boost its big iron revenue streams.

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